The Brewers backed into the All-Star Break at a meager 12-18 in their last 30. But for what it’s worth, not a single National League Central team managed better than a 15-15 mark over the past month. With the entire division lethargic, all five teams have to be happy with the three-day respite coming up. But if you want to keep thinking about baseball through the break, here are five Brewers statistics I’ll be watching as we round the corner into the second half.
Junior Guerra: 3.15 DRA
Even though Guerra’s first half ended on a somewhat sour note Sunday, as he allowed three runs on two homers over 5.7 innings against the Cardinals, Guerra has turned in a campaign to be very proud of thus far. He still owns a sharp 3.06 ERA and a decent 3.87 FIP to go with that nifty DRA. Guerra’s solid DRA suggests his ERA isn’t simply the product of luck or a quality Brewers defense (the club ranks below average according to BP’s Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency), but rather that he is consistently generating the kind of outcomes that make for a successful pitcher.
If there’s one reason to believe, it’s Guerra’s splitfinger, which continues to be a consistently devastating pitch. It’s his most effective swing-and-miss pitch (22.2 percent whiff rate), has been thrown for a strike a respectable 60 percent of the time, and has been responsible for just one of the eight homers Guerra has allowed this year. Hitters are slugging just .238 on the rare occasion they do make contact against it. His fastball has been hittable (.264 AVG, .423 SLG), but when Guerra manages to get ahead in the count, there hasn’t been much hitters can do when he gets to bust out that splitter.
Scooter Gennett: .273/.373/.477 vs. LHP
Gennett has hardly set the world on fire this year, as he’ll head into the All-Star Break with a .262/.325/.410 batting line. Still, that’s a major improvement over last season’s disappointing .264/.294/.381 marks. A bulk of the improvement comes from Gennett’s solid performance against left-handed pitching.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of it is the power production — Gennett has hit two of his seven home runs, as well as three doubles, against lefties in just 51 plate appearances. Of course, that low number of plate appearances means this could just be noise, but if Gennett can stay on the field against left-handed pitching, his future as a starter on a competitive team looks far, far more viable.
Jimmy Nelson: 4.0 BB/9
We’ve seen a lot of good stretches from Jimmy Nelson this year, who will enter the break with two straight quality starts and a 2.45 ERA in his past four outings. But even in these past four starts, Nelson has walked four or more batters twice. He has just five starts this season with fewer than three walks, and his control issues have made him prone to blowups — eight runs (six earned) in 3.2 innings June 15th against San Francisco (three walks) and six runs in four innings June 3rd against Philadelphia (three walks) being the best examples.
Of Nelson’s 48 walks, 30 have come against left-handed pitching, as he just hasn’t managed to find a secondary pitch (curveball or changeup) to get lefties out. That would go a long way towards fixing his issues — 20 of the 32 extra-base hits he has allowed this year have come against lefties as well, even though he has faced more righties (232) than lefties (229).
Team: 106 SBA
Jonathan Villar: 31 SB, 10 CS in 148 SB opportunities
The Brewers ran about as much as the average team last year, as their 113 attempts ranked 16th in baseball in 2015. This year, nobody is running more than Milwaukee. The difference between their 106 attempts and number two Cincinnati’s 95 attempts is bigger than the difference between Cincinnati and number five Pittsburgh’s 88 attempts. There has been some sacrifice in efficiency — the Brewers ranked sixth in the league with a 74.3 percent success rate last year and now rank 11th in the league at 72.6 percent, in large part because of Jonathan Villar’s MLB-worst ten caught stealings.
But still, the Brewers are succeeding at an above-average rate and taking more bases than anybody else in the league as a result. Villar’s 31 steals leads the National League, as he has attempted a steal 41 times in just 148 opportunities (per Baseball Reference). If he keeps running with abandon like that, it won’t matter how inefficient he is, he’s bound to finish atop the National League’s stolen base leaderboard.
Chris Carter: 22 home runs, .284 ISO
If Carter could play all 162 of his games at Miller Park, he’d be a Hall of Famer — he has needed just 45 games in Milwaukee to blast 16 dingers. Even with his poor performance on the road (six homers, .200/.306/.370 line in 39 games), Carter’s power production in 2016 is going to be among the best in Brewers history. His 22 home runs in 87 team games puts him on a pace for 41 this season, which would tie him with Ryan Braun (2012) and Ben Oglivie (1980) for the sixth-most by a Brewer in a single season. Only Richie Sexson (twice), Gorman Thomas and Prince Fielder (twice) have gone over 41, with Fielder’s 50 in 2007 leading the club all-time.
Carter has 16 doubles and one triple to go with his 22 home runs, giving him 39 extra-bases against just 29 singles this year. Carter is the ultimate grip-it-and-rip-it slugger, working on yet another season with a strikeout rate over 30 percent. Still, his raw power is the best Milwaukee has seen since Fielder. Carter’s .284 ISO would be fifth in Brewers history for a single season, behind Fielder’s 2007 (.330) and 2009 (.303), Gorman Thomas’s 1979 (.294) and Jeromy Burnitz’s 1999 (.291).